Running a nonprofit organization is a tall task. Many small to medium size nonprofits struggle with insufficient resources (human and capital) to fully execute their missions. Nonprofit leaders frequently have something on their plate, juggling multiple priorities and stakeholders. It doesn’t matter if you’re the sole employee of the organization, or if you have a large team around you; there’s one thing you can’t compromise on: “donor service.”
For example, how do you or other staff members respond when donors reach out with questions? What do you say when a donor sends you a complaint, expresses a concern, or makes a suggestion?
Just as success in the corporate realm relies on impeccable customer service and care, success in the nonprofit realm depends on extraordinary donor service.
Here are three ways to improve your nonprofit’s donor service:
- Open the Lines of Communication
Make it easy for others to get in touch with you. This is easier than ever before if you dedicate your organization to the following communication tools:
- Email: Anyone and everyone should be able to get in touch with you via email. Adding to this, I recommend that you strive to respond to each message as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after it’s received. It’s a practice I learned early in my career, and I recommend setting aside at least 3 times each day for responding to email (once in the morning, once about 12noon, and once in the afternoon).
- Phone: Many people prefer to communicate via email, but that doesn’t mean you can do away with your phone number. Using the telephone (even it if means leaving a voicemail for someone) is a more personal way to communicate, so you should be open to taking and making calls as necessary. Be sure your phone line is staffed by a person during regular business hours and the person staffing it has exceptional phone etiquette (this is rare today).
- Social media: Today, social media is one of the best ways to engage with donors. Not only can you answer questions and address concerns, but you can also use social media to share information and engage with your audience. I recommend devoting at least 1hr per day to this activity.
- Be Responsive
I find that many organizations (for-profit and nonprofit) are surprisingly unresponsive. Emails go unanswered. Phone calls are not returned. Frankly, I am surprised and appalled by this behavior. Perhaps people are overwhelmed, or perhaps they prioritize their work according to the voices that scream the loudest. I don’t know. What I do know is that being ignored can frustrating on many levels, so you should consider whether your organization is ignoring stakeholders. No one wants to deal with a person, nonprofit, or for-profit company that is unresponsive. Think about a time as a customer when a request you made or communication you initiated went unattended. I will share that my wife and I recently walked out of a restaurant well known for its cuisine when (after seated) no waiter or waitress greeted us. We happily went to another establishment nearby and enjoyed a fine meal with attentive service. Something similar may be happening with your donors.
When a donor calls you on the phone, make time to chat with them. When a volunteer sends you an email, respond to them as quickly as possible, even if you do not have a complete answer to a question that they may be posing.
Taking this one step further, follow up on all conversations that require you to do so. We call this being whole and complete with our donors. It’s a great way to demonstrate integrity and show people that you care, which will create magic for your organization.
- Remain Patient at All Times
Just because your nonprofit accomplishes great things in the world, that does not mean you’ll never run into problems. From time-to-time, you (or a member of your staff) will make an error or forget something.
If someone comes to you with a problem, remain patient as you attempt to find a solution. Even if this person is visibly angry, you can take a deep breath and keep your cool.
Now is the time to improve your donor service. Please, do not fall into the trap of believing that for-profit companies are the only ones that can provide a high level of service. Nonprofits can do the same, and the three tips in this post will point you in the right direction.
David Langiulli is an executive coach and trainer who helps leaders and their teams get results.